That End-of-a Good-Book Feeling   6 comments

I’m a writing tutor at a community college. It’s at once rewarding, challenging,
and, sometimes, frustrating. In a break from rhetorical analyses and summaries,
a student, with the aid of an ASL interpreter, asked for reading help. Initially
I recommended a reading tutor, but soon realized she was more interested in
books than the process.

“I don’t know how I should feel at the end of the book,” she explained.

Her face revealed she was being neither ironic nor sarcastic; she was earnest.
I was silent. What should you feel at the end: joy, relief, disappointment?

“It’s pretty subjective,” I finally answered. “So much depends on the book and
where you are in your life. Some books I don’t want to end; the good ones I think
about long after setting it down for the last time. Others make want me to read
something better where I can know the characters, revel in the language, be awed
by the images, or just enjoy the story. Sometimes after finishing an exceptional
book, I don’t even want to read anything new for a while.”

Her rapid hand movements interrupted me, “But have you read any famous books?”

The inquiry seemed sincere. “I read a lot,” I said, “including books that could be
considered famous.”

For a moment she was still before she scrunched her face, moving her lips and
her hands at the same time. “Like Harry Potter?”

“Sure, like Harry Potter,” I said. “I read those to my kids, at the end we couldn’t
wait for the next one.”

Was that it? Did she really just want to know how she should feel at the end of
Harry Potter?

We all shrugged our shoulders.

It left me wanting to read a good book, one I can’t put down. How should you feel
when you finish a book?


Posted March 4, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

6 responses to “That End-of-a Good-Book Feeling

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  1. Interesting question. I have experienced so many different feelings after reading a book. Some I anticipated the ending and then felt surprised. Some I skipped to the ending and felt relieved that I didn’t spend time in the middle. Some I felt let down, like the author just gave up after so many chapters of character development and a well built bridge to nowhere. I posed this same questioned to myself before re-writing the end of my book after my father read the proof copy. He commented that he kept wondering all through the story, what happens next, it held his interest, but when he got to the end he wanted closure. He needed the protagonist of the story to have it all worked out and the loose ends tied up in a nice, neat package. I had left it open-ended so readers could choose for themselves how it should end, or if it should end….So the re-write was a compromise of open and closed endings. I hope someday to know how readers who don’t know me personally feel about it. I also hope the feeling is a good one.

    • An ending that is too tidy can sometimes be disappointing, but so can an ambiguous one. That’s probably what makes some books outstanding: the ending is just right. Except in the case of the latter, there is often sadness because it means the book is over. I think reactions are subjective. We can all agree we like, even love, a book, but I can’t imagine we would all share the same reasons why. Thanks for commenting!

  2. When I finish a really great read I feel disappointed. I am leaving good friends behind, characters that were developed so well, they have become a part of my life, my new best friends. The story that drew me in is over and I don’t want to let it go. “Cutting for Stone” was an example of this……..the characters and events became such an intrigal part of my life, our times, my imagination, that despite the length, I wanted it to go on forever.

    • Some characters and stories do just stick with us for better or for worse. Cutting for Stone is a great example of a book with characters and events I would have been more than happy to continue reading about. Such books do become part of our lives. Thanks, Carol!

  3. I don’t necessarily think there’s a “should”. Well, maybe one: you should NOT feel relieved. The only times I’ve felt relieved to finish a book was when I genuinely didn’t like them. With books I loved, I always feel a bit of pain or sadness, because you never get to read it for the first time ever again.

    To paraphrase a saying, “finishing a good book should feel a little like losing a good friend.” Maybe that’s one of the answers?

  4. There probably can’t be a “should” because we all respond to things differently. The student just made me think about this. When I read mysteries, for example, I am relieved because things are usually resolved. And, like you, I have felt relief when I am through with a not-so-great book. Although, I find I have less patience with those and may actually stop reading altogether. That doesn’t happen often, because I try to be optimistic a reason to continue to the end will surface. If not, then I am really disappointed. Maybe one way to look at the end is as a breaking up; it’s time to move onto a new relationship (book). This can be sad but filled with anticipation. Thanks for commenting!

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